South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Two Oakville residents vying to take over seat from term-limited Haefner


By Jessica Belle Kramer
For the Call

Two Oakville residents are running in the Republican primary Tuesday, Aug. 7, to replace Rep. Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville, in the 95th District of the Missouri House.

Michael O’Donnell and Joe Patterson are vying to take the place of Haefner, who is term-limited out at the end of 2018 after four terms in office.

Michael O’Donnell

O’Donnell, 50, 7043 Chalkstone Road, Oakville, is a municipal finance officer and a U.S. Navy Reserve officer. He and his wife, Lisa, have two children: Emma, who attends Missouri State University, and David, who attends Oakville Senior High School.

When asked why he is seeking public office, O’Donnell said, “Having spent more than 27 years engaged in the finances of cities, towns, school districts and states, I’ve seen states, like Illinois, drive themselves to the brink of insolvency with unchecked spending. I understand the need to make the difficult spending decisions for Missouri that avoid that sort of outcome.

“I’m pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and a constitutional conservative who would like to continue my service to the community; first via my service in the Navy and now by serving the Oakville community in Jefferson City.”

Joe Patterson, 32, is a detective for the St. Louis County Police Department, and he and his wife, Kate, live at 6723 Black Water Drive, Oakville.

Joe Patterson

When asked why he is seeking public office, Patterson said, “I am seeking office so that I can use the skills and tools I have developed over the last decade serving as a police officer to work with both parties and find common ground on some of the most difficult issues that face our state and to provide Oakville with a strong voice in the Legislature that will always put the people first.”

The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

What issue do you consider the single most important issue in this race and why?

O’Donnell said, “Oakville residents expect the Missouri Legislature to deal with the things that have the largest impact on their lives, for most that is their ability to provide for their families and themselves. The state needs to continue to cut regulation and red tape so that companies in Missouri will continue to provide jobs and additional companies will come to the state to improve everyone’s quality of life.”

Patterson said, “The single most important issue in this race is public safety. This includes combating the opioid epidemic and stopping the spread of violent crime across our region. We must keep our communities safe by combating violent crime and supporting our first responders. We must change the image of our region by lowering crime.”

Other issues you perceive in your race and your position on each:

O’Donnell said, “Government waste and out-of-control spending is a huge issue right now. We need to cut the fat, shrink the bureaucracy and prioritize how we are using state resources. We need to ensure that no taxpayer money is being used to provide services to illegal immigrants.

“We have to continue to fight the opioid crisis in Missouri. When I was deployed to Afghanistan, I was part of a group focused on counter-narcotics efforts, so I’ve worked on the front lines of this crisis by stopping heroin from making its way here. There is so much the state can do to help reduce the lives lost and the lives ruined by these illegal drugs. The state needs to ensure we have safe roads and bridges. The state must reprioritize its spending to meet current infrastructure needs. Technology is changing rapidly, and we need to take a really hard look at how our K-12 and post-secondary education curriculum is preparing students and future workers for the opportunities that are going to exist.

Patterson said, “I believe the city/county merger will be a key issue in this race. I work with St. Louis city government employees and officials on a regular basis, and I see the dysfunction and mismanagement firsthand. I want the best for the city of St. Louis, but I do not believe taking on their problems is the solution. I want to see fewer municipalities in St. Louis County, not more. I am against a city/county merger in its current form.

“Additionally, I believe responsible development in Oakville is important. That development must be done in a way that is very public and transparent, with residents having input on their wants and needs. No more sneaking three-story buildings in on us. Even if it is under county control, I would use my office as state representative to ensure no other elected officials try to pull any more fast ones on us.”

What is your position on abortion?

O’Donnell said, “I am pro-life and proud to be endorsed by Missouri Right to Life.”

Patterson said, “I am 100-percent pro-life.”

What is your position on the death penalty?

O’Donnell said, “I support the death penalty for the most extreme cases.”

Patterson said, “I am for the death penalty.”

What is your position on tax-increment financing? Are changes needed to this law?

O’Donnell said, “I believe in free markets and would like to see the use of TIFs reduced. Local and state governments are responsible for making sure that the infrastructure is in place for successful business development in our community, and that continued support requires businesses to support their local communities through the taxes they pay.”

Patterson said, “I believe tax-increment financing is corporate welfare, and like all welfare programs, it should be re-evaluated frequently. Some changes I would like to see now include reserving a small percentage to cover the resources the TIF project would use, such as the fire district. Additionally, I have personally seen projects in North St. Louis County fail because the company left the development as soon as the TIF expired. That type of activity is not sustainable, and we should research ways to get back-end commitments on TIF projects to keep the project viable for years to come.”

Would you support placing a constitutional amendment before voters that, if approved, would repeal the supermajority requirement for school-district bond issues?

O’Donnell said, “No, because raising taxes should never be an easy thing to do. However, with current market conditions, this is a moot point because new issuance of municipal debt is on the decline and schools districts with strong credit ratings, like Mehlville and Lindbergh, would only get a 2- to 5-basis point break, if any at all, for the supermajority vote. Long gone are the days of school districts saving 25 to 50 basis points with general-obligation debt.”

Patterson said, “I am against a repeal of the supermajority requirement needed for school-district bond issues.”

Are changes needed to the state’s foundation formula for funding education?

O’Donnell said, “Definitely. Oakville residents have been sending more money out of the Mehlville School District than they are paying into it. More of that money needs to stay right here to increase the educational opportunities right here in Oakville.”

Patterson said, “With funding based on population, there will always be winners and losers when it comes to our state’s foundation formula for funding education. I believe we should look for reasonable reforms that make the process as equitable as possible.”

Are changes needed to the law allowing Missouri citizens to carry concealed weapons? If so, why? If not, why not?

O’Donnell said, “I remember all of the scare tactics that were used when the voters passed the conceal-and-carry law here in Missouri, and none of that has come to pass. Conceal and carry is about allowing law-abiding citizens to safely protect themselves.”

Patterson said, “I support the recent changes to the state’s concealed-carry law, and I believe in the intent of the changes. However, as a police detective on the street who deals with armed criminals regularly, I have seen a few loopholes in the law that can be tightened up that do not change the spirit of the legislation. The minor changes in wording would not affect any law-abiding citizens and would give our law enforcement officers more tools to combat violent crime.”

Are changes needed to the state’s current Open Meetings and Records Law? If so, what would you propose?

O’Donnell said, “I support any effort to make government business and the spending of taxpayer money a more open and transparent process. Voters deserve to have the information necessary to hold their elected officials accountable.”

Patterson said, “I believe, in most cases, that the current Open Meetings and Records Law serves our people well. However, I do believe that making sure government bureaucrats are trained properly to do their jobs in regards to the release of the records is important. Additionally, oversight through the attorney general’s office should be conducted regularly.”

What do you propose to generate revenue for road and bridge improvements?

O’Donnell said, “I would like to see more federal, state and local partnerships to help fund road and bridge improvements. We can also take advantage of financing techniques used in other states to help fund such capital projects.”

Patterson said, “Our first step in looking for money for roads and bridges should be to eliminate all fraud, waste and abuse to ensure our current tax dollars are being spent properly before asking the taxpayers for more money. If revenue still falls short, then I believe a user tax in the form of a graduated increase to the gasoline tax is the best idea.”

Are changes needed to the state’s eminent domain laws to prevent abuse?

O’Donnell said, “Eminent domain abuse is a real problem, and we need to quickly put an end to this practice. Private property is private property, and the government has no right to infringe on the private-property rights of law abiding citizens.”

Patterson said, “I believe eminent domain should only be used in situations that serve the public good and not corporate interests. I would support any changes that ensure we put the people of Missouri before corporate interests.”

What will you do to improve Missouri’s economy?

O’Donnell said, “Improving the state’s economy is going to require new businesses to relocate here or be started here. A large component of that growth will require a work force that is trained for the jobs of tomorrow. We are in a different world now – technology is advancing so quickly, and government is struggling to keep up. We can’t hide our head in the sand – we must prioritize education for the next generation.”

Patterson said, “My main focus on improving Missouri’s economy would be to focus on two things simultaneously: economic development and public safety. Economic development so that we have workers trained and prepared to perform critical skills that attract employers, and public safety so that we can improve our state’s image. I believe safer neighborhoods and lower crime would help keep current business in Missouri and attract other interests from outside the state.”

Would you support legislation to facilitate a merger of St. Louis County and St. Louis city?

O’Donnell said, “Absolutely not. I have met so many Oakville residents who are so upset by the thought that their tax dollars could wind up going to help bail out the financially strapped city. I will do everything I can in the Legislature to protect south county residents from this attempted land and money grab by the city.”

Patterson said, “I do not and would not support legislation that would facilitate a city/county merger. The city of St. Louis needs to shrink its out-of-control government size and spending. I want the city to do well for our region, but I do not believe in bailing them out of problems they created. I would support consolidation of certain specific services that would save our tax dollars. I have seen the city and county police consolidate our air support and bomb/arson units to the benefit of the taxpayer. Those would need to be looked at carefully on a case-by-case basis.”

Are changes needed to the Public School and Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri? If so, what would you propose?

O’Donnell said, “Underfunded pensions are a problem across the country. Even the U.S. military is moving away from a defined benefit program. We need to move organizations like these to programs that tell their members that we trust them to do what’s best with their money and allow their families to retain the wealth that has been accumulated by their decades of hard work.”

Patterson said, “I do not believe any changes are needed at this time.”

Would you support amending the state’s Sunshine Law to require public governmental bodies to make audio recordings of all closed meetings? Such recordings would not be available to the public or press.

O’Donnell said, “I support any effort to make government business and the spending of taxpayer money a more open and transparent process. Voters deserve to have the information necessary to hold their elected officials accountable.”

Patterson said, “Yes, I believe recordings should be made. If a lawsuit is filed and there is nothing to hide, then that evidence should be made available to a court of law.”

Would you support legislation imposing limits on campaign contributions?

O’Donnell said, “This aspect of our election system has gone off of the rails. The new system puts limits on the money a candidate can take from a publicly disclosed donor, yet it also allows for these massive pools of undisclosed ‘dark money’ to fund campaigns. If a candidate is taking a large donation from one donor, that should be disclosed publicly and the public can decide whether that contribution is too much when they go to the polls on Election Day.”

Patterson said, “I believe the current voter approved limits are sufficient.”

What did you think of the performance of former Gov. Eric Greitens? What do you think of the performance of Gov. Mike Parson?

O’Donnell said, “We achieved significant conservative policy reforms under the leadership of Gov. Greitens. Now we are seeing Gov. Parson continue to bring leadership and reform to state government. Whomever is governor, we should all be rooting for their success because, as Missourians, their success is our success.”

Patterson said, “While I did not support former Gov. Greitens’ approach, he was effective on policy. I support Gov. Parson, who is a lifelong public servant and former law enforcement officer who knows how to do what is best for the state of Missouri and would never put himself before the people. Gov. Parson is a well-known figure in Missouri who shows respect and is respected by even those who disagree with him. I believe that is an important quality in a governor.”

Are changes needed at the state level to make elections smoother in St. Louis County? If so, what would you propose?

O’Donnell said, “We need to make sure that all election authorities throughout the state have the tools and resources they need to execute smooth and secure elections. Election integrity is of the utmost importance and the secretary of state’s office under the leadership of Jay Ashcroft has done an excellent job of working with local election authorities to ensure Missourians have fair and secure elections.”

Patterson said, “I do not propose any changes to county elections. I believe any changes need to come from county voters and government before any state intervention.”

If elected, what bill would you sponsor as your first legislation?

O’Donnell said, “I’m not going to Jefferson City to make government bigger by passing more rules and regulations for Missourians. I believe in limited government and seek to end regulations, kill bad legislation and root out waste, fraud and abuse in government.”

Patterson said, “The first piece of legislation I would begin to work on would be used to combat our state’s opioid epidemic. I would increase the punishment for those who choose to peddle deadly drugs on our streets by imposing mandatory minimum sentences for drug dealers. I also would reclassify the deadly drug fentanyl as a higher class of felony and decrease the amount of fentanyl needed to qualify as drug trafficking. I would also look for options that expand drug treatment/prevention, but I have no sympathy for the dealers and believe we need to keep them behind bars and away out of our communities and away from our children.

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